Calif. Farmers Worry About Cost of Insuring Workers Under the ACA

Farm labor contractors in California are concerned about the cost of providing health insurance under the Affordable Care Act to thousands of uninsured field workers, the New York Times/Kaiser Health News reports.

Details of Concerns

J. Edward McClements -- senior vice president at Barkley Insurance and Risk Management -- said, "It's difficult when you've got 1,000 workers who've never had health insurance before, to get an idea of what their costs will be."

Minimum health coverage under the ACA could cost the agricultural industry about $1 per employee for every hour that the employee works in the field, according to estimates by insurance brokers and providers.

Farm labor contractors generally have about a 2% profit margin, leaving little room for the added cost of providing health coverage to their workers. They say the added cost will be passed on to growers, who likely will pass it on to consumers in turn.

In addition, reducing workers' hours to part time -- a strategy adopted by some businesses to avoid meeting the ACA's requirements -- is not an option for the agricultural industry because crops must be harvested year-round.

Even employers who already offer their field workers health coverage face major changes under the ACA, observers say. For example, many employers currently offer so-called "mini-med" plans with coverage limits as low as $5,000. However, such plans are prohibited under the reform law.

Workers' Concerns

Meanwhile, field workers say they will be unable to afford contributing up to 9.5% of their wages to health care expenses. According to brokers, the minimum health plan that complies with the ACA would cost farm workers about $250 monthly.

Jose Romero --- an employee at Sunrise Farm Labor -- said, "The salary that they give you here, to pay insurance for the family, it wouldn't be enough" (Varney, New York Times/Kaiser Health News, 8/21).

Patricia Morris-Gooding
California Farmers will have no costs for most of their farm workers who are undocumented, therefore, ineligible for ACA. Their complaints are nothing more than their usual employment of misinformation in an attempt to make their unhappiness with any regulation sound more credible. Sorry farmers you miss, again.
Hrant Kouyoumdjian
Weinberg is correct; most farmworkers will likely be eligible for Medi-Cal or subsidy; if the latter, Bosley is right too. The article is indeed lacking. Second hand reporting using a lede without critical thinking has become the norm. Few take the time/courage to raise factual red flags or question the logic behind PR driven policy statements. As one who studies and analyzes measured commentary and editorial blogs to capture competitive nuances shaping health policy for clients, I read Weinberg's writings with a gamely dose of latitude in his application of economic principles. The last gratuitous political dig, which I am sure written out of frustration and resonating with many, adds nothing to furthering professional discussions on factual/policy disagreements. CaliforniaHealthLine comments, editorials, and editors should all aspire to maintain a higher standard than the run-of-the mill politically charged blogospheres and "some" news media outlets used by both sides of the aisle.
Renee Bosley
Medicaid eligiblity will help, but the subsidy will penalize the farm worker for every employee who obtains one. Still a very expensive proposition for the Ag industry. This article gets it right.
Micah Weinberg
So frustrated with this article, which gets a bunch of basic details wrong and shouldn't have been summarized without comment in the HealthLine. If we don't know these basic details, the ACA has no chance of success. First, many farmworkers will be eligible for Medicaid at no cost to them or their employers. Those who aren't are likely to be very highly subsidized and pay nothing like $250/month. For people who make much more than that (are there a lot of farmworkers making more than 400% of FPL?) benefit costs are generally taken out of salaries so it's not clear there will be any cost to employers. Not to mention all of the economic benefits of getting people insured! Terrible article, not balanced at all, might as well have been a Fox News editorial.
Donald Stumpp
This is fantastic! The opponents of ACA will of course whine about the increased cost, but the truth is, the cost is there now. These workers without insurance are either covered as a dependent under another plan and therefore a cost of some unrelated business, or are 'bare'. When they need healthcare, who pays? More than likely, bad debt with costs passed on to us with insurance. So this is fantastic! People will get insurance and the COST SHIFTING can stop. Also, not sure if they are taking the subsidies into consideration with the costs.

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